Smurfit-Stone Container is to exchange its European packaging operations for former largest shareholder Jefferson Smurfit Group’s 50 per cent stake in Smurfit-MBI, a Canadian packaging business, and a payment of approximately US$190M.

Smurfit-Stone currently owns 50 per cent of Smurfit-MBI. When the deal is completed, it will own the Canadian operation fully and will end its manufacturing presence in Europe. Subject to the necessary regulatory approvals, the transactions are expected to close in the first quarter of 2003.

According to president and ceo Patrick J Moore, the exchange is a natural step for both parties, following last September’s privatization of Jefferson Smurfit Group, Europe’s leading corrugated container and containerboard manufacturer. “These transactions further our stated strategy of focusing on North America. They will concentrate our primary asset base in the US and Canada and enable us to continue to broaden our capability to serve our customers.”

Smurfit-MBI, based in Mississauga, Ontario, is Canada’s second largest manufacturer of corrugated containers, and a leading producer of speciality retail packaging and point-of-purchase displays. It has about 2,500 employees and operates 15 converting facilities in Canada. Sales for 2002 were approximately US$430M.

Smurfit-Stone’s largest European operation is Europa Carton, with headquarters in Hamburg, Germany, and two paperboard mills, 11 packaging plants and five recycling facilities. The other European operations include a containerboard mill and three packaging plants in Spain, four in Belgium, and one each in France and The Netherlands. These operations, with about 3,200 employees, produced some 500,000t of containerboard and boxboard in 2002. Sales were approximately $630M.

More information from Smurfit-Stone – TEL: +1 312 346 6600.